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Home / The Course / When to Run? / Timing Requirements
Timing Requirements

It’s all about good timing and having time. You may know why you want to run and where you want to run, but if you don’t know how to enter the game on time, especially the nomination game, it’s over. Or you may simply decide that you do not have the time to run… yet.

Keep in mind that a campaign extends beyond polling day to the cut-off date for financial reporting, and then your commitment continues throughout the length of your term if you are elected. And keep in mind by-elections are a good time to test the waters if you want to get involved.

The first and foremost question on timing is when will the election take place?

That is easy to answer at the municipal level since the dates are set by provincial and territorial municipal election Acts.

On the other hand, it can be much more difficult to guess when a provincial or federal election or by-election will be called.

All we know for sure is that, according to sections 4.(1) and 4.(2) of the Canadian Charter of Rights, provincial and federal elections must be called no more than five years from the prior election.

Charter of Rights

4. (1) No House of Commons and no legislative assembly shall continue for longer than five years from the date fixed for the return of the writs of a general election of its members.

(2) In a time of real or apprehended war, invasion or insurrection,
a House of Commons may be continued by Parliament and a legislative assembly may be continued by the legislature beyond five years if such continuation is not opposed by the votes of more than one-third of the members of the House of Commons or the legislative assembly, as the case may be.

The rest lies with the governing party who has the privilege to call an election.

At the provincial and federal levels, the political and legal requirements are closely intertwined. You will need to know a great deal about your local party association since its executive sets the nominations rules in your riding. Furthermore, the party executives will possibly be more aware than most of when an election may be called, especially if they are members of a governing party. They will launch and control the recruiting of candidates, especially if an incumbent is not running again.

Here is how the Parliamentary Information and Research Service of the Library of Parliament describes the role of political parties in the selection of candidates:

“The selection of candidates by registered parties is governed by the nomination procedures of each party. Local nominating conventions may be open to all members of the party, may be closed to all except delegates hand-picked by the party executive, or may fall somewhere in between these two extremes.”

This statement underlines the fact well known by experienced candidates that the nomination hurdle is anything but simple.

The party establishment does have the power to intervene and override a local riding decision. It even has the authority to appoint a candidate to run without this person having to go through the nominations process. However, this is the exception rather than the rule in Canadian politics, so it is imperative that you deepen your understanding of the local political powers and authority."
Here are some points you need to explore well before the official count-down is on:
  • What are the issues of the day, locally and nationally?
  • Where does public opinion stand?
  • What is your ward or riding profile?
  • Who are the influential people, the key riding or city council personnel?
  • What is your support base – the potential sources of money and power?
  • What are your strengths and weaknesses, and skeletons in your closet?
  • Who are your opponents – his/her support base, sources of money and power and position on issues.

  • As for the legal requirements, they are quite similar at all three levels of government. They can be summarized as follows:
    1. Make sure you qualify as a candidate: check requirements regarding length of residency in a given ward or riding, age, citizenship and disqualifying elements.
    2. Gather the required number of eligible nominators to sign your nomination papers.
    3. Chose the Official Agent to be named in your nomination papers and get his or her written consent. This person will be responsible for keeping track of expenses and contributions and filling of the financial reports according to the law. He or she must meet all the legal requirements of such a position.
    4. File your nomination papers and accompanying documents with the Municipal Clerk or the Returning Officer. Carefully check with these officials the specific filing deadlines and dates on which you will be notified whether your nomination is accepted or rejected.
    5. Pay the required filing fees (cash, certified cheque or money order).
    6. Provide timely and appropriate notification of the withdrawal of your candidacy, if need be.
    7. Get the list of electors.
    8. File the appropriate financial reports on time.

    Some Key Dates

    • Nomination Day
    • Withdrawal date
    • Nomination certification
    • Campaign Period
    • Advance Polling dates
    • Voting Day
    • Last Day to apply for recount
    • End of campaign
    • Filing deadline for financial disclosure


    For precise information on your duties as a candidate, check the various candidate guides for all levels of government provided in 'More on the Issue'.

Municipal Level

It is only at the municipal level that elections take place at a regular date set in the provincial Act relating to municipal government.


Provincial Level

Winning a nomination contest at the provincial level is far more complex than at the local one.


Federal Level

As at the provincial level, federal elections must be held every five years, according to the Constitution, although they usually take place at approximately four-year intervals.


Wise Words
Getting nominated is usually the hardest part of
running for elected office.

Rosemary Brown, the first Black woman
in Canada to be elected to public office, in 1972 in B.C.

You will not have time once the campaign starts to do any kind of organization.

Gina Brannan, Q.C., former candidate in Ontario

Get started early. However early you get started, you'll find out that some other guy got started earlier, because men have a long history of getting themselves organized.

Lynn McDonald, MP for Broadview-Greenwood (1982-1988)


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